Dear Clare Community,
I am writing this letter in response to the recent banter about the Brookwood 2.0 project. It is my hope that the context from which I am writing will help to add a fresh flavor and perspective to this boiling pot of stew that is Brookwood 2.0. I am writing as not only a recent student athlete and graduate of Clare High School, but as an even more recent collegiate student athlete and graduate from a college with artificial field turf. More importantly, I am writing as a young adult that has a life completely vested in the community of Clare. Clare is absolutely all of the things that have previously been mentioned in the letters related to this topic: a community rich in tradition, rich in loyal patrons, and rich in opportunities to succeed. Simply put, Clare truly is a cut above the rest.
Merriam-Webster defines tradition as this: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior. Finding traditions in Clare is about as difficult as finding a hippie at Woodstock—they are literally crawling all over. The fact of the matter is, artificial field turf will not change the tradition of Clare athletics, or make it stronger. Clare football is based on tradition; a winning tradition that is a focal point of the start of every football season when the first few weeks of August roll around, and any of the football coaches will tell you that. Do not think that Clare football does not know or relish the fact that it has won the Jack Pine Conference 10 times out of the last 12 seasons and qualified for the state playoffs 13 of the last 14 seasons—all in impressive fashion. Will artificial field turf change that tradition? Absolutely not. Will it intimidate other schools? Not any more than they already are to come and play at Brookwood in the first place.
My hope in this letter is to help inform, and with that, I will offer my best answers to some of the common questions about playing on turf. Will it make our young men and women better athletes? Not in the slightest way, shape, or form. Will it make our young men and women feel like better athletes? Probably. Will it really prevent injuries? No. If anything, it will create new ones. Yes, the chance of blowing a knee out on a sprinkler head may be removed, but let’s not forget about the new six inch cement barrier that must separate the natural grass from turf in the end zones. In addition, we should mention turf burns, which can be most closely related to road rash—the friction of skin and granulated rubber can leave some interestingly shaped scabs and scars on arms and legs.
Sounds sanitary, I know. I also, very much doubt that any of the previous commenters weighing in on the topic have actually ran or changed direction on turf before, or more importantly, wet turf. Running on and cutting on dry turf is nice, but wet turf is different ballgame. It is just as easy to lose footing on wet turf as it is on wet grass. Any cleats will suffice, but certain molded cleats truly are better than others on turf are and may help the traction situation, but now we are talking about asking every athlete to invest in an expensive pair of cleats.
Does a football or soccer ball behave differently on turf than grass? Without a doubt. I am not saying that practicing on turf all season will affect Clare’s abilities on natural grass, but I am not saying that it will not either. The bottom line is that the ball behaves differently on each surface. Will it save money over the long haul? Maybe, maybe not. Turf needs to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, at least that is the estimates given by those selling the turf, and it will cut local jobs. Also, it is not maintenance free, if it isn’t combed from time to time, it will show uneven wear.
Before we get to the $10,000 question, or more appropriately, the $600,000 question, I have some questions of my own. Firstly, if the current condition of the field is so poor that it needs restructured within a year or two, what happens if the $600,000 mark is not reached by then? Will we continue to watch our “old friend” wither until we hit $600,000, or will we opt for the traditional route? If we do go all natural, then we should be good for another 10 to 15 years, right? Otherwise, it would be a waste to put artificial turf in right after spending to redo the field naturally.
Essentially, we are looking at a two-year timeline to make a decision about what to do with our “dying buddy.” Secondly, if we do get artificial turf and host the promised state football playoff games, track meets, and band events—which we assume we will be able to steal from nearby Central Michigan University, Alma College, and Midland Community Stadium—where are those people going to park? I can just picture those giant, red Ronald McDonald footprints leading spectators, at least the spectators with enough stamina to brave the trek, correctly down Ann Arbor Trail (I call dibs on lemonade stand and shuttle service rights). Once they reach Brookwood Mud Bog—I mean the visitors parking lot—they should find their way though.
I want to make it clear that I am not against fundraising for the community. In fact, I am all about it. If Brookwood 2.0 can get to $600,000, that is AWESOME, and I will proudly nominate the current project management team to help fundraise for a revamped gymnasium in the high school, not that the vintage 1970’s feel is not working as is.
Whatever we do decide, let’s be sure not to spend a dime on new educational opportunities for our students. That just wouldn’t make any sense. After all, with all of the new athletic opportunities and abilities our students will gain, Clare will be the proud home of 5 or 6 professional athletes signing $1,000,000 contracts that can donate back to Clare by 2020 right? Forget about the other 3,000 that graduate as future professionals and tradesman that will support our town.
Under no circumstances should we worry about expanding educational opportunities to include curriculums in computer coding—which is an industry growing by billions of dollars and millions of jobs. In addition, we should be sure not to ask any business owners to donate time and focus solely on donating money. A business/entrepreneurship class in which students spend an hour or two a day learning personal and business skills in a truly real and professional setting would be anything but constructive. I’m sure that Jay’s can’t offer any insight into management, marketing, inventory, sales, and communication for young people. Lastly, I want to make sure that the fundraising is done solely from a parental role. Who wants to teach kids about responsibility and creative thinking anyway?
Here is the bottom line as I see it. Would artificial turf be nice? Yes. Is it worth it? Not in relative value compared to other needs. If Brookwood 2.0 gets to $600,000 then by all means, go for it, but I hope that those considering donations also weigh other options for their money. If Brookwood 2.0 is where they decide to go, great, if they decide to donate elsewhere, still great.
Name withheld by request